Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Does Art Follow Life or Vice Versa?

More than thirty years ago a school bus filled with children set out from one small town to another. One side of the road was lined with precipitous hills and cliffs. On the other side was a long lake so a guard rail ran the length of the road. There were no side roads or any spots where a vehicle could pull over.
And yet the bus disappeared along the way. The obvious thing was checked first and there were no breaks in the guard rail. Local, state and federal police were totally mystified.
Then one newspaper reporter covering the event told of reading a book many years earlier. That book, The Day the Children Vanished, was written by then well-known mystery writer Hugh Pentecost. The story featured the exact same scenario down to the last detail.
Everyone rushed to find a copy of the book, but it was long out of print. The publisher hurried it back to the presses and in little more than a week it was in every bookstore in the country. It quickly zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists.
So here was a case in which life definitely imitated art.
The reverse is often true, which is way some particularly grisly crime will inspire several writers to crank out nearly identical stories. There have even been cases where two different publishers released books with the same title at the very same time. The Watcher comes to mind.
Not only did the plot of Hugh Pentecost's book fit the story of the children in every detail, the solution to the enigma proved to be identical to that in the book. When a writer sits down and begins hitting the keys he/she can never be certain where his brainchild may eventually lead. I would imagine in this case it led to some suspicious cops knocking on Pentecost's door. It also led to his bank account growing considerably fatter.


Blogger STAG said...

There was a book written about an ocean liner called the "Gigantic", which vanished in the Newfoundland fog on its maiden voyage. This was about a dozen years before the Titanic sailed. Many details were and still are startling even today.

And of course, David Gerrold wrote the beloved Star Trek episode "The trouble with Tribbles", and was aghast at being told a certain Mr. Heinlein had written a book years earlier about a similar alien entity he called "Martian Flat Cats". While chatting with Mr. Gerrold, he mentioned that he had originally got the idea from an American folk tale called "Pigs is Pigs", so he had no call to complain!

I think it is impossible to come up with a new plot device...only a different way to "play the music" as it were.

11:43 PM  

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